Catholic Atheist Week 5: We say we believe in God, but we don’t think we can change
As we wrap of our Lenten Series “Catholic Atheist,” even though our life’s circumstances are crazy difficult for so many of us at this time, there are also many blessings and opportunities for us to grow in faith. As many of you know, we have been “live streaming” Masses and devotions, and we will continue to do so, all the way through Easter. The sad fact that we cannot gather at this time to worship and receive the Sacraments does not dampen the fact that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and in the coming weeks, we will celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death as joyfully as ever. Please join us at churchofstjohn.com or on our Church of St. John Facebook page for daily prayers, live streaming, and updates.
During this series, we’ve been talking about how we can say we believe in God, but by our actions or attitudes we betray that belief. Today’s message is about our thinking sometimes that we are just stuck in bad habits or patters of sin, and we will never change. What is that one sinful habit or addiction in your life that you struggle to overcome? It could be many different things: a bad temper; overeating; habitual lust; drug or alcohol use; impatience; negative thinking. No matter what our circumstances are right now, we can be changed or transformed, and our faith in God can only help us with that change.
To start, as people of faith, we must know and believe that our life is not simply our “project” alone to get right – it is God’s project. One of the traditional seven deadly sins is sloth – which is not simply laziness, but laziness in doing good, including laziness in thinking that we cannot change. One problem many of us have is our misconception of who the real “Change Agent” is. Sometimes we think that it’s all our fault that we don’t change, and if only we had more discipline, then we would get it right. In Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 3 of the Twelve Steps echo this idea: (1) “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” (2) “We came to be aware that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” (3) “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him” [taken from alchohol.org]. Those who follow the Twelve Steps, even if they don’t believe in God, realize that there is something outside of them that is the primary Agent of change.
As believers, we believe that we are not simply our own project. We are God’s project – we are God’s workmanship. Ephesians 2:8 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. Philippians 1:6 says, I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God has begun a good work in us who believe, in faith and in baptism. Paul is confident that God is not finished with us yet. Do we share this same confidence? Later in the same letter Paul says this: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work (Phil 2:12-13). Yes, we have a responsibility to do what we can do, and we should also realize that it is God working in us, in our good work. God’s work in us, and in the Church, continues to the last day; and every single day, God is sending a “Jetstream” of grace our way. Our part is to be attuned to God’s grace and God’s work in us, and “go with the flow.” How is God working in you today, even in our current circumstances? How is God calling you to change right now? Questions for Small Groups:
If you could change one thing about your life with the snap of your fingers, what would it be?
Read out loud Philippians 1:6. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you in God working in your life? Why do you answer as you do?
What weaknesses in character are you tempted to just accept as who you are instead of trying to grow?
What are your thoughts on being God’s work and not your own? Why do we feel like we have to make ourselves change rather than allow God to work on us?
What is the difference between understanding we are God’s work and being lazy?
What is the one next thing you know you should do?